For months, Ted Kennedy has been saying that Jimmy Carter is in the wrong party. Now it turns out that maybe the one who missed the boat by not being a Republican is Kennedy.

The Republican National Convention rules committee today adopted the "freedom-of-conscience" rule for individual delegates that Kennedy has struggled, so far in vain, to have the Democrats adopt at their convention.

It would have broken Kennedy's heart to see how easily his goal was accomplished here.

A motion was offered to delete a provision of the 1976 rules requiring that delegations be recorded in accordance with the results of any primary, even if some delegates have second thoughs on the convention floor.

A handful of rules committee members from such states as Wisconsin, which have laws requiring delegates to obey the primary results, asked for a postponement of the vote until Sunday.

They were shouted down and the amendment sailed through on a voice vote.

The binding requirement that was eliminated today got into the rules four years ago, when President Ford was worrying about possible defections to Ronald Reagan.

The Carter forces sustained a similar but tougher loyalty pledge in the 1980 Democratic convention rules, after bitter debate with Kennedy backers at a rules committee meeting in Washington earlier this week.

The effect of the GOP rules change is that some delegates pledged to presidential contenders who lost as the result of primaries may be able to cast their votes for Reagan on the convention floor Wednesday night.

Hugh Beard of North Carolina, a Reagan-backing member of the rules committee, said "no Republican's conscience should be burdened with having to vote for a left-wing lunatic named John Anderson."

John Field Reichardt of Michigan, a George Bush supporter opposed to the rules change, said, "I find it rather interesting that the Republican Party is following the lead of Sen. Kennedy."

But Paula Hawkins of Florida, a Reagan backer, said, "I agree with a lot of things Sen. Kennedy says -- about Jimmy Carter."